The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

October 24, 2013

With Rose back, Bulls aim high again

(Continued)

“The one thing I do like about our team is the versatility with the lineup,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “(Mike) Dunleavy (Jr.) plays three positions. He can start, come off the bench. (Kirk) Hinrich to me is a starter who comes off the bench. Taj (Gibson) is a starter who comes off the bench. That gives you pretty good flexibility.”

Here are five things to look for this season:

BETTER ROSE: Rose insists he’s coming back better than ever. If he does, that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the league. The former league MVP said he added muscle during his time off, which he thinks will in turn add range to his jumper and help cut back on the wear and tear his body absorbs. If nothing else, Rose’s presence takes pressure off the rest of the team.

NOAH HURTING: Getting Rose back obviously is huge for the Bulls. But it would help if Joakim Noah stayed healthy. He was limited by plantar fasciitis in his foot for the second time in three seasons, and he has missed time in the preseason because of a lingering groin injury.

WIND-DENG DOWN?: With an expiring contract, Luol Deng’s time in Chicago could be coming to an end. He did not get an extension in the offseason, so it looks as if he will hit the open market. A two-time All-Star, Deng’s been a solid contributor, averaging 16 points and 6.4 rebounds over nine seasons. He’s also a favorite of Thibodeau, but with the Bulls possibly looking to make a big splash in free agency, there might not be room for him.

BUTLER’S BIGGER ROLE: After making a jump in his second season, Jimmy Butler could be poised for another big step. He’s now the starting shooting guard and Rose is back. That could translate to plenty of opportunities for him. As it is, he played well last season, averaging 8.6 points mostly as a reserve, and really came on strong down the stretch. Butler made 12 starts in the playoffs and averaged 13.3 points.

DIFFERENT PAGES?: The Bulls insist Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman are on the same page. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on them after Forman let top assistant Ron Adams go in the summer. It was an unusual move because head coaches usually set their staff, yet it was the general manager making the call in this case.

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